Something to Chew On

At 3 a.m. I turn into a tooth fairy. It’s not what you imagine with wings and a wand. It’s not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. There are no frilly tutus or magic wands. It’s just the standard flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers. I know it sounds hard to believe, but give it a second and read my story and you will see.

I work in a dentist office by day. My life is surrounded by teeth, gums, and saliva. “Open wide. Gargle. Rinse and spit.” Your general dentistry shit.

But that is not how I got this job. I sort of fell into it by chance. With five kids it is hard to make ends meet and I had been praying for some sort of miracle or help landing on my feet. Sometimes you get just what you ask for, but it may not quite be what you expected. 

One night I was still up after the baby’s middle of the night feeding. I rinsed the bottle and tried to clean the sink. A shiny black roach raced across the counter. I snatched it up in an old paper towel on the sink. I squeezed and felt its body pop in the wad of paper. “Go and tell your friends,” I said as I squished it even more and threw it in the trash. It was starting to feel like a bad scene from the Erin Brokavich movie, except I’m not Julia Roberts and I don’t have big boobs.  

I glanced out the kitchen window at the full moon hanging low in the dark sky. It whispered of hope and a way to get the mortgage paid. I rubbed my eyes. I really do need sleep. I heard movement upstairs. Water was running in the upstairs sink.

I walked along the outer edges of the stairs so they wouldn’t creak or groan. I expected to find my two-year old son in the bathroom, standing on the toilet and leaning over the sink to fill up his little plastic Batman cup for a drink. It drives me crazy when he gets up in the middle of the night. At least this time he wasn’t sucking on the tube of toothpaste for a midnight snack.

This bad habit of his scares the hell out of me when I find him out of place. He should be in bed. I will be going downstairs to make a bottle and there he will be, standing in the hallway or sitting on the steps scavenging stuff he’s not supposed to be into. It always startles me. He looks like he should be one of the Children of the Corn kids staring blankly at me with pale blue eyes and an albino face.

But this time I found someone else.

A stranger stood in my bathroom with a toothbrush and a foamy Crest smile.

I couldn’t utter a word. My tongue was twisted and tied. My stomach flip-flopped as my eyes googled over this shirtless stranger. I didn’t know they made abs like that anymore.

A smirk and a grin played across his face.

This can’t be for real. I’ve been working too many long hours. I think I might have transported myself into a Harlequin romance novel with no plot.

He grabbed the hand towel from the rail and I realized this was real.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

I tried to answer. I tried to speak. Still nothing would come out. I should be screaming and shouting, but there was a calmness about him. Could he be my Edward from Twilight? He wasn’t sparkling, but that was fine. He had no fangs or hairy face. I tried not to follow, but nothing was out of place. It was smooth calmness. It was part of my fate. 

He grabbed me by the elbow and whisked me through the hall and into the kitchen. I couldn’t resist that devilish grin.

“Take a bite,” he held an apple to my lips. “You will understand everything with this.”

My hand brushed his wrist as I sunk my teeth into the tender flesh of the yellow apple. 

Old knowledge appeared before me, stuff I always knew but had forgotten. This was my place. I just missed the target by a little trace.

That is how it all started, how I got my job as a tooth fairy. I found a handsome stranger at my sink. I had asked for help and it had appeared. It may seem like luck, but it was always part of my calling. It is not quite the full-blown out tooth fairy job. I would call it more of a carrier type of position. I collect the bags and deliver them to the secret place lost baby teeth are kept.

Haven’t you ever wondered what the tooth fairy does with all those teeth?

If I can trust you maybe I will let you know.

Every night when the rest of the house is asleep I sneak through the kitchen for a night-time snack. I bite into an apple that is as full as a harvest moon; special apples to help me travel through the night, light as can be.

The hours are not very long, but the pay is good. Who would have ever guessed the tooth business to be so lucrative, except maybe a dentist.

There are some downsides to the job, too. Lately my teeth have been tingling. I also felt something strange in the roof of my mouth, almost like a lost popcorn kernel wedged between those lines on the roof of your mouth.

It was sore and tender and sharp. It can’t possibly be. I’m too old to be growing more teeth.

I met my Crest man one night and told him of this crazy predicament after a second tooth grew.

“It’s time then,” he said.

“Time for what?” I asked.

“Don’t worry. It happens to everybody in this business. It’s time to meet the man.”

Hint: Whoever said the tooth fairy had to be a woman with a frilly dress and wand?

The head guy, nice as he is, is greedy as hell. Teeth are his specialty and he has plenty of them. He regrows them in his own mouth. Hundreds of them, sticking out of dirty gums like an old picket fence in a dead cemetery. He only wants more, like a weird addiction.

“After you have been delivering teeth, you start growing more. It’s part of the magic. Now you have to pay your dues,” the Tooth Fairy man explained to me.

“Don’t worry. It’s not so bad,” my Crest man whispered in my ear before the Tooth Fairy’s minions grabbed me. Their hands were bony and gripped my arms like a vice. There was no getting away.

I was flattened to a board. A large roll of clear shiny tape reflected the metal instruments hanging from the ceiling. Large tape was pulled from a roll. They wrapped me like a hot dog in Saran wrap from shoulders to feet. But this was not Saran wrap, it was some sort of industrial tape that stuck humans on it like a fly gets caught on that yellow sticky tape. When I was little I remember counting dead fly carcasses hanging from the tape in my Grandma’s garage. Red gooey black bodies with no legs clung lifelessly to the tape. Luckily there were no carcasses on this tape.

I couldn’t move.

“In just a minute you will feel pressure and pulling,” a strange voice said.

The only thing I could see was pain shooting like stars. Sheer pain searing through my jaw and head.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell, “Don’t take them. They’re my babies.” But I couldn’t utter a word as a million centipede fingers pulled on the edges of my lips.

The long needle passed over my head. Why the hell did I look? It probed my gums and assaulted the roots of my teeth. They shot up my mouth. I could feel it going down in deep. 

The bitterness of the injected juice slipped down the side of my tongue and sat at the back of my throat. I could taste the bitterness and the smell singed the insides of my nose.

The strange surgeon looked down at me with a light on his forehead, like a spelunkers in a cave. His features were a blur. The light on his forehead shadowed his face so I could not see his sadistic face.

I tried not to look at the instruments. Was that a pair of pliers? It sure looked like a pair of regular old pliers and not the usual shiny dental instruments.

Before I knew it, it felt like pressure on my whole head, an unnatural pushing on my entire face and twisting and turning.

I heard something crack.

“You’re all done,” he said. The masked assistant removed bloody gauze from my mouth, a trail of saliva sticking to my lick as if it was mozzarella cheese. More gauze was crammed into my cheeks. I couldn’t speak.

“Do you want to see it?” Crest man asked me.

“No!” I mumbled with bulging eyes. I did not want to see the unnatural teeth that was yanked and pried from the roof of my mouth.

“Do you want to see the place where teeth go?” he asked.

The Crest man motioned for me to go. I held his hand as we crawled up a pile of sharp and stubbly rubble. I looked down. I looked all around. We were surrounded by piles and mounds of human teeth. We were wading in a sea of teeth; incisors, molars, and sparkly fillings galore.

“This is the cemetery where the teeth are kept.”

I would never have dreamed of this kind of sea, but it is real. You just have to find it. It is someplace where the ends meet the sky and imagination is reality. Be careful what you ask for.

“Now that is something to chew on,” I thought.

writers' week